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A beginner's guide to Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (S.E.O.) is the process of tailoring the content of your website to improve its position in the results of search engines. Search engines are a free source of traffic to your website so it is well worth the effort to ensure your website is represented effectively.

How search engines work

Search engines visit each page of your website and extract the text. They record how many times each word is used and where they are used (headings, links, body text etc.)

These details, together with many other factors, help the search engine decide the order to list websites when users search for a set of words. The exact process they use is a closely guarded secret to ensure people don't try to artificially push their own website to the top of the search results.

White Hat or Black Hat

Black Hat
Worn by the bad guys.
Steer well clear.

White Hat
The good guys, playing fair.

Some companies will try and sell you services that promise to increase your rankings. They may use Black Hat techniques. These are techniques that try and fool search engines in to thinking your website is more popular than it really is. Such techniques (such as buying inbound links) may provide a temporary increase in visitors, but the search engines constantly evolve their algorithms to spot abuse and penalise the abusers.

Example White Hat techniques:
Promote your website offline and online to increase visitorsCreate engaging content that people want to shareInclude videos, photos and well formatted contentAdd "social sharing" buttons to make sharing content easyKeep your website fresh and up-to-dateIncludes keywords and phrases in your text that customers will search for

Optimise your text

Rule 1: write content for customers NOT search engines

You should primarily write your content with your customers in-mind rather than search engines. Increased traffic will not increase your profits if your content is poorly written or hard to read.

Beginners often over-optimise their content and provide a poor experience for their customers. Search engines try to detect over-optimised sites and push them further down the rankings.

Know your keywords

Think about the words and phrases that your customers will type in to Google to find the product or service you offer. Perform test searches to see which sites are returned and where they have included those words in their website.

Use your keywords

Use your keywords where they naturally feel right in your pages. Search engines may view keywords as holding more "weight" when used in certain places, such as headings and sub-headings.

Your main body text will likely include your key words and phrases multiple times, but ensure you don't fall in to the trap of keyword stuffing, i.e. repeating your keywords just for the sake of S.E.O.

Don't forget images

Search engines do not understand the content of images, but including images in your page can help increase rankings. To let the search engine know what the image contains, you can set the "Alternate text". This text is used when the image cannot be loaded and by screen readers used by the blind. Make sure your alternate text is short, descriptive and contains appropriate keywords.

To set the "alternate text" In the websites we provide, simply right click on an image, enter some text in the "Description" box and click [Save]

Window Title and Meta Description

Important! Window Title and Meta Description are commonly overlooked.

It is important to use your keywords in the Window Title and Meta Description. These settings are often overlooked, so using them correctly can give your rankings a boost. Search engines give more "weight" to keywords that appear here.

The Window Title appears as the title in the tab of your browser, and also as the heading for your entry in search results.

The Meta Description is not visible on your page, but search engines often use it as a summary of your page in their search results.


Rule 1 applies here too - use language that appeals to your customersMake sure titles and descriptions are unique for each pageKeep the Window Title short, descriptive and to the pointYour description should include your keywords fairly early on within a short paragraph.Think of your title and description as a text ad that needs to draw customers in when they see it in their search results

To configure these settings in the websites we provide, click the [Window title] button in the toolbar at the top of the page.

Don't get obsessed with S.E.O.

Don't do the Google Dance, just create a great website.

You could spend months reading all the articles on S.E.O., and implementing various strategies. Your website's position may improve, but it may also drop when you think you have done everything right. The search engine algorithms are constantly evolving and trying to keep on top through optimisation is a full-time job. People refer to this as the "Google Dance" - constantly analysing results, changing content, reading articles about algorithm changes.

Your time would be better spent running your business and working on solid online and offline marketing campaigns.

By Brett Jackson

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